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HCS221 & HCS532 Research Skills Guide: Evaluate

Evaluating information

After you have located an information source you need to discern whether it is of suitable academic quality for your use.

There is no definitive way to calculate the quality of an information source. However, there are certain indicators that, in combination, can help you determine if the source you are considering is reputable. Using these in conjunction will enable you to form a rounded opinion on the quality of most information sources.

The CRAP Test

Currency

  • When was it written?
  • Is it current enough for your topic? Older material might be ok for an essay about historical approaches to child welfare, but if your assignment is about social media and child protection, you'll need to keep it current!
  • Not sure if it is current enough? The rule of thumb is to use resources published in the past five years.

Reliability

  • Is the source reputable? Is the journal peer-reviewed, or is the book published by an academic or professional press?
  • Is the content the author's opinion or have they offered evidence to support their argument?
  • Have they provided references to reputable resources?

Authority

  • Who is the creator/author?
  • Are they qualified to write about this topic?
  • Are there any experts in the field that you should look up?

Purpose

  • Is this fact or opinion?
  • Is it biased?
  • Is the author trying to sell you something?

Check if the Journals are Peer Reviewed

Most law journals are peer reviewed, which means they are reviewed by other academics and legal practitioners prior to publication. You can check whether an article is peer reviewed by looking it up in Ulrichsweb. Ulrichsweb isn't like most databases - instead of collecting articles, Ulrichsweb is a specialised database that collects information about journals.

Ulrichsweb can be found by clicking on the database listings under the letter U on the Library's A-Z Databases page
 

Why Peer Review?

Articles published in peer-reviewed or refereed journals have been through a formal approval process. An editor and one or more subject specialists review the article before it is accepted for publication. This process is intended to ensure that the article is accurate, well-researched, and contributes to the body of knowledge in the field.
 

Why does the journal type matter?

The subject area of a journal is important because it will impact the way someone writes about an issue.

To check if an article comes from a peer reviewed journal:

  • Search for the journal title (not the article title) or the journal ISSN
  • Locate the journal on the results list
  • If there is a referee's jumper () in the column on the left it means the journal (and therefore the article) is peer reviewed. In the United States of America they refer to the peer review process as refereeing, hence the referee's jumper.

If you searched by journal title, you may get more than one result for the same journal. This sometimes indicates that there is both a hard copy and an electronic copy of this journal.

If you are unsure, you can always go back to the article record from your original search and get the journal's ISSN number from there. The ISSN is a unique number that is delegated to each journal.

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